Herman Bank dies at 96; engineer designed collapsible surfboard

As one of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory "rocket boys," engineer Herman Bank had already helped launch the Space Age when wobbly surfboards strapped atop his station wagon in the early 1960s led him to another design frontier.

After securing his cargo alongside a Los Angeles freeway, Bank puzzled over how to make the era's nearly 10-foot-long boards easier to transport. A son who surfed persuaded him that the answer was to slice them in two.

By 1966, Bank had come up with a way to cut a surfboard in half so it could be taken apart for travel and bolted back together at the beach. Major surfboard manufacturers heralded it as a breakthrough and briefly marketed his design. But shortboards soon came along and rendered his innovation largely obsolete.

Bank, 96, died Nov. 2 at his Altadena home of complications related to old age, his family said.

The collapsible board was "a quick little splash in the evolution of surfboards," said Dick Metz, founder of the Surfing Heritage Foundation, which has several of the boards in its collection in San Clemente. "It was a good idea, but the market wasn't there."

-- Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times